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Shure SRH1540 Review

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by kimvictor, Jan 23, 2014.
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  1. SoundTown
    I've owned the SRH1540 for over a year or so by now. I had gotten them for free (through some complicated school government programme that I'm not going to explain here), so I am very grateful to have such a great headphone, but I think my efforts to "fix" or just love these headphones haven't really worked. I like them, but don't choose them over my other headphones like my AT ATH-AD700 and E-MU Teak.

    For me, the two primary areas where the SRH1540 doesn't work for me lie in the mid-bass and the upper mids. The mid-bass is just too humped for me, and while I can see how it can make for a relaxing yet fun listen, I didn't like it very much for more bassy tracks. The uneven/ringing in the upper mids lends texture and vibrance to vocals, but can quickly get irritating over longer listening sessions at moderate to higher volumes. K-pop was particularly abbrasive with the SRH1540 stock, and I found myself dismayed by the over-bearing mid-bass and the splashy vocals ruining that genre in many instances.

    I sought to fix these issues by modding. First, I stuffed the insides of the cups with roughly cut/torn pieces of foam from a thin sheet that I got from a small local upholstry business. Then, I swapped the pads to the Brainwavz flat oval pleather pads. Mid-bass was flattened, much to my delight, and the good sub-bass extension can be more readily felt. The mod, however, didn't really fix the upper mid splashyness, and made the overall signature more balanced (aka brighter than stock) as a result. While better suited to my preferences, the SRH1540 then had the problem of having a vaguely similar sound signature to my E-MU Teak and wood modded M40x, and both those headphones didn't feature that same upper mid harshness. So I'd use those over the modded SRH1540 in a pinch.

    The SRH1540 does have several strengths, to its credit. With a pilot pad, the SRH1540 can be extremely comfortable, and of course it has that excellent isolation. And, for people who want it / can live with it, the SRH1540 is great for listening at lower volumes, since it retains bass punch and clarity because of the humped mid-bass and upper mid spike. Also, as many have pointed out, the SRH1540 has a nice rendition of spatial depth and imaging for a close headphone; apart from the ever-present mid-bass, the upper frequencies especially have a soothing sense of space.

    I think Lachlan was on to something when he said the SRH1540 are extremely under-rated in his Elier video. They have many good qualities: they come with generous accessories, are comfy (especially with a pilot pad to prevent hot spots), are built very well, are relatively easy to mod, and are practical in many ways. But for me, the sound signature just didn't do it, being too unbalanced for my taste and frankly distracting, so I never find myself choosing it over my other gear.

    Nowadays, I think there are better values than the SRH1540 in the closed department, the Audio-Technica A1000Z coming to mind. However, The A1000Z, while sounding more balanced and being technically superior imo, does not have a detachable cable, comes with nada in terms of accessories, and is definitely not the same kind of subtle/practical that the SRH1540 is. This is not to mention the various niche needs the SRH1540 fulfils, like its great use case at lower volumes for people extremely concerned about hearing damage (and rightly so). The SRH1540 also has a mid-bass hump many people on this thread seem to enjoy, and I can see why, especially for acoustic, jazz, and other less bassy genres.

    Being a long-term user of the SRH1540, I would definitely hesitate to recommend it to people right away, but I think for the right group of people, it can make some very, very happy.
    Quadfather, frost15 and trellus like this.
  2. waveSounds
    @SoundTown Nice impressions. While I don't necessarily agree with you on the humps/troughs in the frequency response being inherently detrimental (my preference), I do agree that it's not necessarily the first headphone I'd recommend at this price anymore. With the NightOwl now selling new for the same price (or lower) I'd recommend them if the primary use is at home listening/musical enjoyment. That being said, I wouldn't expose the Owl to the same treatment as I can the 1540; they can be thrown in a bag without a case, (accidentally) dropped or knocked to the floor and show no signs of misuse. They're utilitarian by design and incredibly resilient because of it, while I'm hesitant to cart the NightOwl around in anything less than its leather, padded carrying case!
    SoundTown likes this.
  3. SoundTown
    Yes the SRH1540 are very well-constructed. Though I haven't dropped mine anywhere, the design seems easy to repair if you can get a hand on replacement parts from Shure and I'm happy for that.

    I'm curious about the Night Owl as well, though prices in Singapore are far from competitive. I could probably demo that at one of the stores here that stock AudioQuest products.

    In terms of sound signature, I've liked a wide variety of closed headphones, but it just seems the SRH1540 unfortunately didn't work as well for me. I'm happy that there's people who enjoy it though, it is a good headphone for many people.
    frost15 likes this.
  4. frost15
    @SoundTown Like @waveSounds i do not share your opinion on the humps thing. Having owned these for more than two years I'm still in love with them and would not change them for anything in the sub-800$ range. Their low volume sq and build quality are so good I can not imagine myself without them... That being said I found your impressions well explained and nice, so different strokes for different folks.
    SoundTown and mbwilson111 like this.
  5. SoundTown
    Yup exactly, and I do admit the SRH1540 work very well at low volumes. Glad that you enjoy these headphones, they're pretty great. And the humped frequency response is not always a bad thing like previously mentioned, just not my jam evidently.
    Also will be looking forward to what Shure puts out next in a flagship closed back. Not sure how many people will be paying attention but for those in this thread (including myself) we'll be pretty excited. :)
    frost15 and Quadfather like this.
  6. Quadfather
    what is the best way to clean the Alcantara pads? Can they be put in a washing machine?
  7. Yevgen Chupak
    trellus and Quadfather like this.
  8. Quadfather
  9. Yevgen Chupak
    warm water + soap. gently rub and let it dry
    trellus and Quadfather like this.
  10. Quadfather
    Thank you for your response. I am just curious whether anyone has put the pads inside a sock and put it in with the wash...
  11. Quadfather
    Has anybody heard anything about a successor to the SRH1540?
  12. Quadfather
    I am one of those very happy people. For my ears, it seems perfect.
    mbwilson111 likes this.
  13. mbwilson111
    Perfect for me as well... one of my favorites. Sadly I have too much stuff so no one thing gets enough headtime.
    Quadfather likes this.
  14. Quadfather
    My 1540s get probably 80% of my head time
    mbwilson111 likes this.
  15. mbwilson111
    The terrible heat that we had this summer has driven me deeper into iems and buds. Looking forward to "headphone weather."
    Quadfather likes this.
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